A Little Chowder, Anyone?

Why the Chowdafest in Bridgeport’s the second best thing to do on Super Bowl Sunday.

Happy Super Sunday, everyone!

We’re currently watching the game more out of a sense of tradition, rather than any drive to watch either team win. This may be coming out of New Jersey, but I suppose the only major thing people around here are looking to see is which stoner state wins over the other in this “Super Bowl”. As of right now (shortly after half-time), I can say I’m rather glad I’m not from Denver. It was a decent half-time show, however.

Anyway, the other big thing that happens around here on Superbowl Sunday is the Chowda Fest! This was the sixth-annual event, and the second year it was held in the Webster Bank Arena south of I-95 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

For $12 for adults (and $5 for kids aged five to twelve), visitors to the Festival got to sample the 31 entrants to the Chowdafest–local restaurants from throughout Connecticut from Greenwich to Berlin in Southeast Connecticut–and rate their favorites. The winners of the categories–Classic New England Chowder, Traditional Manhattan and Rhode Island Clam Chowder, Creative Chowder, and Soup & Bisque–were determined by the votes of the many taste testers.

The arena after quite a few people had left. It was pretty packed the first few hours.

There was a great turn-out, to the point where the organizers were not expecting quite so many people. There’s no question they had plenty of judges of the soups, chowders, and bisques.

I admit after a while it became somewhat difficult to keep track of which chowder, bisque, or soup was whose, but there were certainly some stand-outs. New Englanders take their chowder very seriously, however, so there was no question that there would be some serious contenders for the title of best chowder.

This soup was so good! Seriously, I’m mildly obsessed with this restaurant.

My personal all-around favorite soup was the Buttery Nut Bisque from Bistro 7 in Wilton. Their spiced butternut squash bisque was so good, I wound-up buying a quart for $5 (which you can do at the Festival) and making plans to check-out the restaurant soon to see if a place with soup that good would be worth the thirty minute drive from Greenwich. My taste appeared in line with everyone else’s as this soup won best soup and bisque at the festival.

Man, Bistro 7 made a good soup.

The second-best butternut squash soup in the Arena was from a more local option, Cask Republic, with one of its two restaurants in Stamford (the other’s in New Haven). While a runner-up, it was still a very good soup with maple-glazed pepitas as an unexpectedly delicious addition and spoke well of a restaurant that’s only just starting-out in Stamford, the city next door to Greenwich (more on Cask Republic this week). By the way, they also won second in the official judging. Score one for me.

Another very interesting and delicious entry (in my humble opinion) was the Buffalo Wing Soup from Liquid Lunch of Shelton and Milford. Spicy and tangy, it was a major contender for the Soup & Bisque category. While I do have to applaud Liquid Lunch for their creativity, I could not say it always turned out exceptionally well–lemon was not a worthwhile addition to their Champ Chowder, their entry for Creative Chowder.

The best Classic New England Clam Chowder contenders in this exceptionally unscientific poll of one person came-out to a tie between the Old Post Tavern of Fairfield and Bernard’s of Ridgefield. The winners of the New England Clam Chowder (according to everyone else) were Donovan’s of Norwalk, Guvnor’s Brewery (also of Norwalk), and Rory’s of Darien, in that order. Rory’s was a bit salty for my taste, but still good.

Cask Republic’s Spiced Butternut Squash Soup was good, but not the best example at the fair. Ignore the Gingerman shirt on the lady. Also, ignore that she’s headless.

It appears I was right in line with the crowd on some of my judgements, and way off with others now that the winners have been declared, all of which you can see here.

Want to try all these Chowders and soups? Well, you’ve got two options. One is to visit these places individually this year (though I do highly recommend the ones of which I’ve written about here), or wait until the next Chowdafest next year. Tickets can be bought at Stop& Shops in the area beforehand. As all proceeds benefit the Connecticut Food Bank, I’d say it’s definitely a fun and delicious way to learn about all the seafood (and local) options in the area! Come on, what else are you going to be doing in the hours leading-up to the Super Bowl, anyway?